At the Port Welshpool Long Jetty Meeting (January 15) there was almost universal support for community management.
This offer was not mentioned by South Gippsland Shire Council CEO, Tim Tamlin, who wants a concrete jetty for industry, but was read out by Cr Nigel Hutchinson–Brooks; “…Gippsland Ports would, with government approval, willingly relinquish responsibility for management, operation and maintenance to any party prepared to accept and which is demonstrably capable of exercising these functions in their entirety on an enduring basis…”
This change in management is fundamental to restoring the Long Jetty as envisioned by late John Parker, past secretary of Gippsland Trades & Labour Council.
Gippsland Ports can’t charge universally supported jetty entry fees or take up any offers of sponsorship.
To them there is no source of revenue for maintenance and the jetty can only be concrete – to stand for 40 years without maintenance.
To the community the wooden jetty is far cheaper to restore and creates local ongoing employment in its restoration and maintenance – all ‘costs’ Gippsland Ports wants to avoid.
The Oil Industry, exempt from paying jetty fees and charges, are the most likely to use a concrete jetty, if constructed, and if it did, due to security, the public could then be banned from the jetty, forever.
Gippsland Ports and the council shut down a successful local committee that had generated an offer to build an underwater observatory worth $5 million, create income for jetty maintenance and more than 20 full time jobs, insurance sponsorship etc. in 2010.
Gippsland Ports and the council then created another committee where all those appointed had to sign the Secrecy Act.
However, the offer of community management, even if five years late, is what the community has long sort.
The late John Parker kept working with the Gippsland community to restore the Long Jetty after 2010 – continuing even when he was gravely ill.
With him the community developed a plan for the staged opening of the Long Jetty; first to the slipway shed, as had been done when the jetty was first built in 1938.
Then into the future, generating funds from jetty entry fees and sponsorship for its ongoing restoration and maintenance.
His shared vision was for apprenticeships and ongoing work funded by jetty entry fees and sponsorship.
A council business plan estimated that 80,000 people would use the jetty annually. Small entry fees would easily raise sufficient funds for its maintenance.
Its wooden restoration for pedestrians and an ambulance was quoted by the principle engineer of Marine and Civil in 2011 as $3.3 million.
Peter Ryan, who became Deputy Premier, went to the 2010 election with this quote and the promise of restoration and was resoundingly re-elected.
However, Gippsland Ports has used money designated to restore the jetty to ‘build the case’ through consultants’ reports to make it concrete. This is despite Heritage listing by the National Trust. In 2011 Peter Ryan raised another $2 million.
We now have $5 million set aside which is easily enough to get started with the first stage which could be completed and insured in months.
This funding can then be built on with sponsorship and jetty fees. Underwater cameras and large screens in a ‘done-up’ slipway shed, under the ‘John Parker Plan’, would provide a budget Underwater Observatory. Toilets and shelter would attract more visitors and more income for the Long Jetty’s restoration and maintenance, while generating tourism for local businesses.
One mention on ABC’s Australia All Over generated more than a thousand responses nationally on their Facebook site proving the national value Australia’s third largest wooden jetty.
The National Trust and the Gippsland Trades & Labor Council can support community management for the ‘John Parker Plan’ and have the project management capacity and experience to better use $5 million to restore and manage the jetty and maximise its value to employment, training and tourism.
Bob McDonald, Yanakie.